Pre-Photography Time-Recording Device
Photography is a novel medium of artistic expression, far newer than painting and sculpture, which date back to the early days of humanity. Interestingly, prior to the invention of photography in the early nineteenth century, an amazing apparatus for accurately recording the past already existed: fossils. I consider fossils the "pre-photography time-recording device," and they are no doubt the oldest form of art, although I am well aware that they date to a time well before the rise of humanity, which created the concept of "art."
Fossils were made by changes in the natural enviornment, such as earthquakes, landlides, explosions of undersea volcanoes, and meteor impacts. These calamities instantaneously killed certain life forms that had flourished on the earth, and these organisms were buried under dirt and ashes; their forms were imprinted at the very moment of their demise. Over the next hundred million years, encapsulated in geologic strata, they were transformed into "stones." Fossils will re-emerge from the depths, when the stratigraphic layers have been removed. If strata are "negatives" of past life, fossils are their "positive" images.
When I began my project of photographing underseas dioramas that represented scenes from the Devonian period, which ended more than 545 million years ago, it occured to me that the trilobites, squids, and sea lilies that I saw in these dioramas had all been re-imagined from their fossils. By photographing these fossils in turn, I was making another set of fossils.
I came to realize that photography is a process of making fossils out of the present.
- Hiroshi Sugimoto